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Walk Your Way to Fitness | Print Friendly Version 1, 2

Establishing an Employee Walking Program

Studies have shown that one of the most effective ways to battle technostress is to get active in Nature. One of the easiest ways an employer can encourage this healthy habit among their employees is to establish and Employee Walking Program. These programs are relatively easy and inexpensive to start and take minimal follow up to maintain.

First, find a walking route near your office that is safe, not too heavily trafficed and is aesthetically pleasing to walk through. The route should be about 2 miles in length. You can measure the route with a pedometer, a bike with a mileage counter, or with a good stride/mile converter online.

Next, map out the route on a visual map of your area. You may want to offer 2-3 selections of walks for your workers depending on where you work. For example, an office in center city philadelphia could choose a walk through the Historic/Old City area, the City Hall/ Art Museum area, the Rittenhouse Square area, or aan Art walk featuring a tour of public murals or sculpture.

Health Benefits

To attain health benefits, you should encourge your employees to walk at least 3 times a week as a minimum for successful completion of the Walking Program. The easiest method to keep track of this is to designate a sign in location. Each day, post a dated, xeroxed list of participants names with space next to each name for the participant's signature. (Of course, many technology businesses may have the ability to create an automated online sign in and tracking system.)

Duration

The program should run for a specific number of weeks, generally 8 weeks work best. You could consider running the program twice yearly, once in the Spring and once in the Fall. The program is most effective when successful completion is rewarded with some give away items. These can be completely up to you and your budget. Another way to get some compliance is to charge your employees a nominal fee ($2) to participate. The monies collected can go towards the gievaways. Another approach iis to charge $5 per employee and put it in a "kittie". At the end of the program, distribute the funds to those who have successfully completed the program.

Group or Individual

There are several ways to approach the walk itself and your best bet will vary based on how many employees you have participating. You can try a formal group approach which can be very effective for a maximum of 20 people. You can let informal groups form sporadically. You can also let each participant choose whether they want to walk in a group or alone.

Promotion

The key to successful participation in the program is to market it effectively and generate buzz before the session begins. The way to do this will vary based on your company culture, but some ideas are mass emailings, announcements/areas on your intranets, printed flyers, postcards or even formal invitations.

You may also consider having a guest speaker come in to talk about a related topic-carpal tunnel, CVS, ergonomics, etc. to kick off the program. A kickoff event could include a guest speaker, healthy refreshments-fruit, yogurt and water, and a formal group walk to orient the participants to the route. It may be helpful to create a printed hand out packet or pertinent information area on your intranet with useful information about walking techniques, shoes, benefits, etc.

A celebration, similar to the kick off event, at the end of the program duration is also an excellent idea. Participants could be given their giveaway goodies, certificates of completion, etc. in a public venue complete with healthy refreshments. In fact, provision of healthy snacks-fresh fruit, yogurt and water-one a week or daily is also an inexpensive way to encourage healthy eating habits too.

Insurance Benefits

It is possible that your employee health insurance plans may recognize this as a valid fitness activity and assess health points that may reduce the employee health care cost. They may also consider it to be a valid fitness activity and offer reimbursement to participating employees. It could be well worth your while as an employer to investigate these avenues with your insurance contractors.

Online Resources:

Walking tips from IDEA(International Dance Exercise Association
http://www.ideafit.com/ftjune99.htm
Exercise Myths

Finding the right shoe